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NASA Meatball X-43A Photo Collection banner

NASA's B-52 mother ship carries the X-43A and its booster rocket on a captive carry flight Jan. 26, 2004.

Photo Number: EC04-0029-28
Photo Date: Jan. 26, 2004
Formats: 526x480 JPEG Image (113 KBytes)
1122x1024 JPEG Image (514 KBytes)
2629x2400 JPEG Image (3080 KBytes)
NASA's historic B-52 mother ship carried the X-43A and its Pegasus booster rocket on a captive carry flight from Edwards Air Force Base Jan. 26, 2004. The X-43A and its booster remained mated to the B-52 throughout the two-hour flight, intended to check its readiness for launch. The hydrogen-fueled aircraft is autonomous and has a wingspan of approximately 5 feet, measures 12 feet long and weighs about 2,800 pounds.
The X-43A will ride on the first stage of an Orbital Sciences Corp. Pegasus booster rocket, which will be launched by Dryden's B-52 at about 40,000 feet. For each flight, the booster will accelerate the X-43A research vehicle to the test conditions (Mach 7 or 10) at approximately 100,000 feet, where it will separate from the booster and fly under its own power.

In a combined research effort involving Dryden, Langley, and several industry partners, NASA demonstrated the value of its X-43A hypersonic research aircraft, as it became the first air-breathing, unpiloted, scramjet-powered plane to fly freely by itself. The March 27 flight, originating from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, began with the Agency's B-52B launch aircraft carrying the X-43A out to the test range over the Pacific Ocean off the California coast. The X-43A was boosted up to its test altitude of about 95,000 feet, where it separated from its modified Pegasus booster and flew freely under its own power.

Two very significant aviation milestones occurred during this test flight: first, controlled accelerating flight at Mach 7 under scramjet power, and second, the successful stage separation at high dynamic pressure of two non-axisymmetric vehicles. To top it all off, the flight resulted in the setting of a new aeronautical speed record. The X-43A reached a speed of over Mach 7, or about 5,000 miles per hour faster than any known aircraft powered by an air-breathing engine has ever flown.

NASA Photo by: Carla Thomas
Keywords: X-43A, X-43, scramjet, captive carry, B-52, B-52B, 008, ship 2, Pegasus rocket

Last Modified: February 25, 2004
Responsible NASA Official: Marty Curry
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